The other night I dreamt I was pregnant with my ex-boyfriend’s baby. This is impossible for many reasons, not the least of which is I haven’t laid eyes on him since 1996. (Oh, and my ten years of marriage, though I guess that doesn’t stop everybody from getting into this particular pickle).
No matter—in the dream, this situation was very real and posed many problems in my current life. Did I shun the boyfriend, stay with Captain Daddy and hope he’d agree to raise my love child? Did I ditch my family and go live with this baby’s father, to raise our illicit bundle of joy together? Maybe a baby was what we always needed. Maybe a baby would make him faithful, magically force him to appreciate me and love me as he never did all of those years ago. Maybe a baby would encourage us to put aside the self-destructive behavior towards which we’d been so prone.
In the dream, my boyfriend held me, spoke soothingly in my ear. He promised me everything. Of course we would raise this baby together. Of course there would be love, joy—all of my heart’s desires and more.
I awoke with Captain Daddy on my left and Chicken Little on my right in the bed I’ve slept in for well over a decade—far from Portland and the past. Far from pregnant, for that matter. I knew immediately the meaning behind the dream. The baby is my book. My ex-boyfriend makes a small but illustrious appearance in my story—the chapter he dominates marks the arc of the narrative. It was the lowest, most dangerous and chilling time of my life. And I do feel like, by writing about it, by publishing it, I am giving birth to it again. I am bringing events long-ago put to rest back to life. It’s unsettling, to say the least.
But as Chicken Little woke beside me in bed, threw an arm around me and kissed me a sloppy good morning, I knew the answer to the dream’s central question. Of course I would stay here. To write about the past, to unearth it, to put it on display is to bring it back from the dead. But I don’t have to go back and live with it. I can pull those things out of my personal history and still keep my feet firmly planted in the life I crafted from the Phoenix’s flames.
Still, for the better part of the morning, I couldn’t shake the image of my ex holding me so tenderly, gazing fondly into my eyes. Everything was going to be okay, he seemed to say. This time, there would be a happy ending.